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No evidence for heating of the solar wind at strong current sheets

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

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Journal publication date1/10/2011
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Journal number2
Volume739
Number of pages5
Pages-
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

It has been conjectured that strong current sheets are the sites of proton heating in the solar wind. For the present study, a strong current sheet is defined by a >45 degrees rotation of the solar-wind magnetic-field direction in 128 s. A total of 194,070 strong current sheets at 1 AU are analyzed in the 1998-2010 ACE solar-wind data set. The proton temperature, proton specific entropy, and electron temperature at each current sheet are compared with the same quantities in the plasmas adjacent to the current sheet. Statistically, the plasma at the current sheets is not hotter or of higher entropy than the plasmas just outside the current sheets. This is taken as evidence that there is no significant localized heating of the solar-wind protons or electrons at strong current sheets. Current sheets are, however, found to be more prevalent in hotter solar-wind plasma. This is because more current sheets are counted in the fast solar wind than in the slow solar wind, and the fast solar wind is hotter than the slow solar wind.